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Defensive Powerhouse Aaron Donald to Retire with the Steelers? Mike Florio Makes His Case

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Defensive Powerhouse Aaron Donald to Retire with the Steelers? Mike Florio Makes His Case

This week, Aaron Donald got a $40 million bump in salary with the Los Angeles Rams that makes him the highest paid non-quarterback in NFL history. But that isn’t stopping Pro Football Talk‘s Mike Florio from speculating on how  the All-Pro defensive tackle might end his career as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“The structure allows Donald to play for L.A. through 2023, at a total payout of $65 million. At that point, he can retire with no financial consequences of any kind. And if he retires following the 2023 season, the next move could be to try to unretire with a new team.”

Steelers Aaron Donald

Aaron Donald played his high school ball at Penn Hills in Pittsburgh, PA — Trib Live

And that is how Florio connects Aaron Donald, the former Pitt start, back to his hometown of Pittsburgh.

“At that point, Donald could try to leverage a trade to a location closer to his hometown of Pittsburgh. If the Rams will get no further services from him either way, they could secure some amount of value in exchange for swapping the final season of his deal to another franchise.

For Donald, an annual commitment that entails spending so much time so far from home was one of the reasons he considered retiring after the 2021 season. After 2023, his mindset could be very simple. Happily retire from football altogether or keep playing in a city far closer to the city where he’d prefer to spend as much time as possible.”

Steelers Aaron Donald

Aaron Donald playing for Pitt — Pitt News

However, Florio cautions that it might not only be the Steelers that would be an attractive destination for Donald. Any team in the AFC North would be closer to home than LA.

“It could be Pittsburgh. It could be Cleveland. It could be Cincinnati. It could be Baltimore. Really, any of the AFC North teams would put him far closer to home, if he decides to keep playing after 2023. The Rams would have to decide whether to take what they can get for the final year of Donald’s deal and let him finish his career elsewhere, or the Rams can watch him retire without ever playing for another team. And get nothing in return.”

Florio goes on to point out the unique way Aaron Donald’s contract is structured that may allow a move closer to home to be possible.

“If he’s determined to end his career closer to home, at that point Donald simply needs to play one more year for the Rams (at $30 million) and then, given the unique structure of his new deal, become a free agent after the 2024 season.”

How likely is it that Aaron Donald finishes his career with the Steelers?

While Florio lays out a compelling theory in great detail, it still remains unlikely that Donald would in fact finish his career as a Steeler. Even on a “hometown discount,” Donald would still cost the Steelers a pretty penny. One that I am not sure that they would be willing to take on. We all know that the Steelers don’t typically splurge on splash free agent signings.

In addition to that the Steelers may have some contract extensions of their own to consider now and after the 2024 season. Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth and Chase Claypool may be due extensions around that time. Especially if Harris and Freiermuth continue to play at the level they did in their rookie season and Claypool reaches the level of play he showed in 2020. It makes a splash play like Aaron Donald seem unlikely.

Unlikely though it may be, Steeler fans couldn’t help but salivate at the thought of TJ Watt and Aaron Donald on the same defense. Just the thought is enough to give every NFL quarterback nightmares.


Does Mike Florio’s theory hold water? Would you want to see Aaron Donald finish his career in black and gold? Click to comment below.




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  2. Wil Stephens-Spann

    June 9, 2022 at 7:24 pm

    I’d definitely love to see that come to fruition. ..

  3. Norbert Rossi

    June 10, 2022 at 12:04 pm

    Mike Florio is a sad excuse for a journalist. He is not worth quoting. Please ignore him. You might as well quote AB on these topics.

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